The Island of Shrinking Mammoths

  • Published: 06 February 2019
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    The mammoths fossils found on the Channel Islands off the coast of southern California are much smaller than their relatives found on the mainland. They were so small that they came to be seen as their own species. How did they get there? And why were they so small?

    Thanks to Ceri Thomas for the mammoth reconstructions throughout this episode. Check out more of Ceri's paleoart at and

    Thanks to Julio Lacerda and Studio 252mya for the Palaeoloxodon illustrations. You can find more of Julio's work here:

    Produced in collaboration with PBS Digital Studios:

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    “Extreme expansion of the olfactory receptor gene repertoire in African elephants and evolutionary dynamics of orthologous gene groups in 13 placental mammals.” Niimura Y, Matsui A, Touhara K. 2014.
    Evolution of Island Mammals: Adaptation and Extinction of Placental Mammals on Islands by Alexandra van der Geer, George Lyras, John de Vos and Michael Dermitzakis.
    Niimura Y, Matsui A, Touhara K. 2014. Extreme expansion of the olfactory receptor gene repertoire in African elephants and evolutionary dynamics of orthologous gene groups in 13 placental mammals. Genome Res doi: 10.1101/gr.169532.113
    "Sea level, paleogeography, and archeology on California's Northern
    Channel Islands," by Reeder-Myers et al. 2015.
  • Science and Technology Science and Technology

Comments • 996

  • W.W.
    W.W.  2 weeks back

    Looking to clone a pygmy Pachyderm...tuskless obviously. Anyone have some DNA? Great Danes aren't that great

    • daprofessor 12
      daprofessor 12  3 weeks back

      "Imagine, a pint-sized elephant that you could keep in the house."

      • wcdeich4
        wcdeich4  4 weeks back

        I'd like to learn about seal evolution

        • Purple Fire 28
          Purple Fire 28  4 weeks back

          9:58 I want the tiny lizard.

          • Purple Fire 28
            Purple Fire 28  4 weeks back

            So uh... No one's going to mention the cursed giant ground sloth?

            • Antoine Fenech
              Antoine Fenech  1 months back

              Here in Malta like in Cyprus we fosilis of small Elephants. check Ghar Dalam.

              • kuma bear
                kuma bear  1 months back

                Show me iguanas please

                • Thomas Nance
                  Thomas Nance  2 months back

                  Oh man! Pygmy mammoths! Adorable!

                  • Francis Lim
                    Francis Lim  2 months back

                    Ever wonder why early humans were smaller in sizes and under developed likes during the WWII,Japanese,Chinese and Koreans were short and small due to lack of food,understanding about nutrients intakes were non existent,but modern Asian are growing larger,even the Knights in Armour are on average about 5 foot tall.

                    • Dan Stevens
                      Dan Stevens  2 months back

                      Pygmy mammoth, slightly contracting

                      • Kirla
                        Kirla  2 months back

                        So, how many prehistoric species have we probably vanished? (previous modern anthropogenic mass extinction)

                        • Dipstikk
                          Dipstikk  2 months back

                          "Huge hedgehogs"
                          *Robotnik starts hyperventilating*

                          • Lil Ra Ra
                            Lil Ra Ra  2 months back

                            Small for a elephant,but still could probably flip over a car with ease lmfao

                            • Madison
                              Madison  2 months back

                              Lil' Mammoth is a cool rap name.

                              • Z Ramirez
                                Z Ramirez  2 months back

                                Where's TierZoo to do a min/maxing video???

                                • Michael Misanik
                                  Michael Misanik  2 months back

                                  Just wondering could you guys do an episode about the once massive Amblyrhiza inundata that  lived on St Martin and Anguilla.

                                  • El_Guapo 13
                                    El_Guapo 13  3 months back

                                    Dang it. We could have had small domesticated breeds of mammoths in place of horses. They would have been way more useful too, as they could use their trunks to lift things.

                                    • chknwngonstrng
                                      chknwngonstrng  3 months back


                                      • David Rodriguez
                                        David Rodriguez  3 months back

                                        History of all Elephants please.

                                        • Hobnob Head
                                          Hobnob Head  3 months back

                                          I want to know about these Swans that hunt Elephants! 😂

                                          • Rajan Rao
                                            Rajan Rao  3 months back

                                            what about the island scrub-jay

                                            • kurokuyo
                                              kurokuyo  3 months back

                                              Why did the Mammoth swim to the island? The grass was greener.

                                              • matthew ulrich
                                                matthew ulrich  3 months back

                                                2:40 sounds like global warming happened over and over those mega mammals farted too much !!!!

                                                • Carson Joshua Segales
                                                  Carson Joshua Segales  3 months back

                                                  Can foster's rule apply to humans also?? Is this why people like from the philippines are small in size?

                                                  • Emerson Lamond
                                                    Emerson Lamond  3 months back

                                                    at 8:27 you have Norfolk island pines, I don't think they were present in california at this time period

                                                    • Ryan Holloway
                                                      Ryan Holloway  3 months back

                                                      Can do the island of mini dinosaurs of Europe?

                                                      • kab kab
                                                        kab kab  4 months back

                                                        Tusk!! Tusk!!

                                                        • srijan saxena
                                                          srijan saxena  4 months back

                                                          Humans, making species extinct since forever

                                                          • Cường Quốc
                                                            Cường Quốc  4 months back

                                                            Japaneses before late 20th century

                                                            • Aether Slugstar
                                                              Aether Slugstar  4 months back

                                                              Evolution gets weird on islands.

                                                              • zoelhek
                                                                zoelhek  4 months back

                                                                Smol mammoth

                                                                • POOH_LY
                                                                  POOH_LY  4 months back

                                                                  Mammoths: This place is so safe. There is no predatos here. Such a peaceful island.

                                                                  Humans: I am about to end this man's whole career.

                                                                  • Peter Edwards
                                                                    Peter Edwards  4 months back

                                                                    Pigmy elephants also lived on Malta.

                                                                    • Dirt Girl
                                                                      Dirt Girl  4 months back

                                                                      all of the mammoths look so sweet and friendly

                                                                      • Jaycob Bailey
                                                                        Jaycob Bailey  4 months back


                                                                        • Alexandria
                                                                          Alexandria  4 months back

                                                                          u think the mammoths were like "hey i dare you to swim out to that island" "no way, you do it with me" "ok fine"

                                                                          • Danny Kid
                                                                            Danny Kid  4 months back

                                                                            It would be cool to do an episode on the waco mammoths

                                                                            • Mark Rowland
                                                                              Mark Rowland  5 months back

                                                                              The island of Kodiac has a giant breed of Brown bear. My answer, as to which breed of bear is the largest was declared wrong. This lost me $80,000 in a TV quiz some thirty years back.

                                                                              • Grey Wolf
                                                                                Grey Wolf  5 months back

                                                                                I love the content of these but the presenter's voice makes my teeth ache! Got to go because she's giving me a migraine :(

                                                                                • Rob Cabrera
                                                                                  Rob Cabrera  5 months back

                                                                                  Are mammoths just old elephants? I thought all of them where bigger and had thick fur!

                                                                                  Edit: I googled it, and it turns out that Mammoths, African Elephants, and Asian Elephants are three distinct groups of Eliphantidae. When you see them side by side it's easy to see the differences. Mastodons are a complete other thing too.

                                                                                  • Neon omar
                                                                                    Neon omar  5 months back

                                                                                    I've seen smaller. Source: Journey 2: the Mysterious Island.

                                                                                    • Vintage Vinny DIY
                                                                                      Vintage Vinny DIY  5 months back

                                                                                      E-pac....not epic..

                                                                                      • lemony
                                                                                        lemony  5 months back

                                                                                        is it just me that the mammoths look like they are smiling?

                                                                                        • Bonbonnie Wuvs
                                                                                          Bonbonnie Wuvs  5 months back

                                                                                          Why do humans kill everything?

                                                                                          • J C
                                                                                            J C  5 months back

                                                                                            dude thank you so much... whats funny is I CAME UP WITH SAME THEORY WITHOUT READING BOOKS IN MY UNDERWEAR ON MY OWN ISLAND... insular dwarfism is my favorite, most exciting phenomena... i was actually going to ask for you to make a video about this.

                                                                                            • J C
                                                                                              J C  5 months back

                                                                                              it literally is proof how fish, insects, AND plants shrink when there's less resources...which can be seen in every period of anthropology and regardless of environment.

                                                                                          • Bodil Fabian-Lamijon
                                                                                            Bodil Fabian-Lamijon  5 months back

                                                                                            Off-topic, but her makeup and outfit look really nice together and match her well

                                                                                            • PoshLifeforME
                                                                                              PoshLifeforME  5 months back

                                                                                              Look out! King Island emu at 10:03

                                                                                              • SoundbytesMusic
                                                                                                SoundbytesMusic  5 months back

                                                                                                Very close to my home at Goslar/Germany a dwarfed sauropode was discovered. The fossil dates back 154m years when the place was an island in an ocean (near Braunschweig about 30 km from here a number of ichtiosuars have been dug up. ).